Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Getting Past the Screaming

It sounds like Alan Dershowitz's new book is an honest attempt from a loud voice on the left to start dealing with the questions of the legal issues of fighting the war on Islamic terrorism:

As Mr. Dershowitz observes, a jurisprudence develops slowly in response to generations, centuries of adjudicated events. But to the extent we recognize the need for it and start thinking systematically, to that extent we won't be completely held hostage to the whim and discretion of a few men at moments of extreme stress.

At the minimum, an early effort at a jurisprudence of prevention would at least help in defining events. Consider the long and fruitless recent debate about the imminence of the danger from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or the current debate on Iran's possible nuclear weapons. Under traditional international law standards they are both classic non-imminent threat situations: "early stage acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by a state presumed to be hostile."

But as Mr. Dershowitz points out, while the threat itself is not imminent, "the opportunity to prevent the threat will soon pass." Once they have the weapons it is too late.

Or, a low price in innocent casualties might soon pass. For instance, in 1981 when Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear site at Osirak, if it had waited much longer the site would have been "radioactively hot" and massive innocent civilian casualties would have been incurred from radioactive releases. It is simply not enough anymore to say a country violates the norm by acting in its ultimate, but not imminent, self-defense. We need new standards for a new age.
Obviously Dershowitz book is not intended to settle these questions, but that's okay, I like where his head's at.


Ralph Luker said...

Alan Dershowitz on "the Left"? Maybe twenty years ago.

Tom said...

Did Dershowitz get kicked out of the club because he supports the existence of Israel and is a vocal opponent of Islamic fundamentalism? I hope not, because on just about every other issue, he's in the American left. It would be a shame if he was considered not of the left for taking those stands.

Ralph Luker said...

I don't decide who's in "the club," in part because I'm not in it. Maybe Dershowitz is still there, but after slumming with Horowitz as much as he has, he should at least be taking a shower.

Tom said...

From the Washington Post today ( article by Bill Bennett and Alan Deshowitz:

"We two come from different political and philosophical perspectives...."

Paul said...

I guess it's 'dirty' to expose frauds like Ward Churchill? And third grade teachers who prompt students to write anti-war letters to Congress and the President as an assignment?